On KG and the Duncan market

According to multiple reports today,the , Kevin Garnett has agreed to re-sign with the Celtics  after his current contract expires tonight. for KG to be $34 million for three years.

You can bet folks in the Spurs front office are paying attention to the goings-on in Boston.

After all, the Spurs have their own 36-year-old, Hall of Fame-bound big man to re-up. At 11 p.m tonight, Tim Duncan also becomes a free agent. Nobody believes he’s signing with anybody other than the Spurs.

The question for Duncan is not if he will return for the Spurs, it’s for how much. Here is where the Garnett deal can be instructive. Three years, $34 million — perhaps with only a portion of the third year guaranteed — feels like a good ballpark for Duncan, too.

Statistically, the two players were remarkably similar last season. Garnett averaged 15.8 points and 8.2 rebounds in a little more than 30 minutes per game. Duncan averaged 15.4 points and nine rebounds in 28 minutes per contest.

Re-signing Duncan to a Garnett-like deal, with the 2012-13 season starting somewhere in the $10 million range, would leave the Spurs still over the salary cap, but would help accomplish their goal of maneuvering well under the luxury tax threshold.

What would the Spurs’ payroll look like in this scenario? They’d be on the hook for about $60 million in contracts next season, well over the salary cap (it was $57 million last season and expected to rise marginally this season), and that’s before talking about Danny Green, Boris Diaw and other free agents.

However, the Spurs would be about $10 million below the luxury tax number, and that’s important for reasons beyond Peter Holt’s pocketbook.

Only teams that operate under the tax have access to the full mid-level exception — expected to be worth a shade over $5 million — for which to chase other free agents, like Diaw for instance, or to lure highly regarded Slovenian forward Erazem Lorbek from his team in the Spanish League.

If the Spurs were to be over the tax, it would be nearly impossible to both bring back Diaw and bring in Lorbek, much less add outside talent. This is where the KG deal feels like it would work for Duncan and the Spurs, too.

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